Saturday, March 15, 2008

ENV: Togian White-eye

Scientists say they have discovered a new bird species in Indonesia
Mar 15, 2008

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A bird first reported spotted on the remote Indonesian island of Togian in 1996 has been declared a newly discovered species, a top taxonomist in the Southeast Asian country said Saturday.

The Togian white-eye or Zosterops somadikartai is named after taxonomist Soekarja Somadikarta and is being introduced in this month's edition of the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, according to a news release from Indonesia's Institute of Science.

Somadikarta said his colleague, Mochamad Indrawan, first spotted the small bird with green plumage and a band of red feathers around each eye in 1996.

The pair spent years collaborating with well-known Asian bird specialist Pamela Rasmussen of Michigan State University to identify it as a new species.

The red-beaked bird is found only near the coasts of three small islands off Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, Somadikarta said.

He said its habitat is less than 5,000 square kilometres.

"We think it's endangered," he said. "It is very active and moves in small flocks."

Jakarta-based WWF endangered species campaigner Chairul Saleh said he believes the bird is a new species based on several years of observations by Indonesian and U.S. scientists.

"The new species is different from its closest family of Zosterops, or white circle-eye. Its eyes are circled by a band of red feathers, not white, and its beak is a more intense red," he said.

"We are still studying the number of the species' population, which is estimated at less at than 1,000," Saleh said.

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